The Northeast American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies was organized in 1977, beginning at the University of Rochester. With the encouragement of the national American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, a core group of faculty at that institution met and enlisted a group of scholars representing a number of disciplines in colleges and universities throughout New England, New York, New Jersey, and eastern Canada to become the first members of the Executive Board.
Lewis White Beck (Philosophy, Rochester), chair of the American Philosophical Association, agreed to become the first president. Earl Miner, of the Department of English at Princeton University, became the vice-president. Professor Miner succeeded to the presidency after the first annual meeting in October, 1977.
The nine first members of the Executive Board agreed to determine the lengths of their terms by lot. They were Maynard Mack (English, Yale), Gita May (French, Columbia), Eric Blackall (German, Cornell), Trevor Levere (Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science, Toronto), J. W. Johnson (English, Rochester), Hayden White (Institute of Humanities, Wesleyan University), Henry Steele Commager (American History, Amherst), Remy Saisselin (Fine Arts, Rochester), and Marcus McCorison (American Antiquarian Society).
Peter Linebaugh (History, Rochester) was the first Treasurer of the Society. Paula Backscheider (English, Rochester) was the first editor of the Newsletter.
Within a few months, the officers and board members wrote and aproved a constitution, planned the program for the first meeting, and led the Society to a total membership comparable to those of the largest of other regional affiliates of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (ASECS).
The first Annual Meeting of the Society was held at the University of Rochester from October 12-15, 1977. Its chair was Paula Backscheider. The inaugural address was presented by Frank E. Manuel (University Professor, Brandeis). The program included between 20 and 30 sessions.
The Edna Steeves Prize for the best graduate student paper at the Annual Meeting was first awarded in 1996.